Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller In Seoul…
Walking through Seoul’s quirky Hongdae neighborhood on a cold and dreary Monday afternoon I trotted down a familiar side street. This area is well known for its many mystics – fortune tellers, tarot readers, palmists and others all offering you the opportunity to gaze into your future.
Amongst the trendy clothing boutiques and eccentric eateries are ramshackle stores oozing the scent of incense and promoting their services with vibrant colors, depictions of alchemy and windows blocked out by collages of tarot cards. I’ve passed these stalls many times before, the only difference this time is that I decided to let intrigue get the better of me and venture inside one of them.
Spoiled for choice by the seemingly infinite options, I settled for a store with multiple wooden boards set out front depicting photographs and signatures of Korean celebrities and television channels praising the psychic inside. Satisfied with my choice, I stepped inside.
Expecting some hippy looking eccentric like Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter, I was surprised to be met with a startling normal looking ajusshi (older Korean man) dressed in startling normal clothes. “Oh hello!” He exclaimed, seemingly excited to have a Waygookin (foreigner) in his store.
The style of fortune telling that he offered was Saju. Saju is a method dating back to ancient China that is based on the ‘four pillars’ or the four factors in your birth (date, year, time and place).
I provided Ajosshi with the details of my birth and he promptly began scrawling down some notes in Mandarin on the paper before him before reaching to the shelf behind, taking out a dusty old Chinese book and setting it down on the table that sat between us. I sat and watched him in fascination for what must have been between five and ten minutes whilst he thumbed through the old tome, occasionally stopping to exclaim “aaah!” or “oooh!” and at regular intervals, referring back to the paper and circling Chinese symbols and drawing lines to connect the letters.
Financials – Ajosshi exclaimed with glee that I had a very good fortune and that this was rare for him to see. He told me I had been diligent with money lately, and that 2017 would be a good year financially. Over the course of the year, I’d start earning more money and likely follow a different career path.
Relationships – The fortune teller told me that I would start a relationship in either May or July, and that I would go on to marry this man in the next two years. Of this, he told me that he was 100% certain.
Travel – Up until 2024, I’d spend most of my life living overseas he told me. After I leave Korea, he told me I’d return here to live once again in the future.
Health – My health will be good until I reach the age of 42 at which age I’ll get a disease (great!)
As with any form of fortune telling, I guess that I’ll have to wait and see how the future pans out before I can tell you if this reading had any level of accuracy to it!
I should also perhaps point out at this juncture that I am not somebody that particularly believes in mystics, nor did I go into the reading with any level of expectations or hope; I was purely interested to discover what lay behind one of the many mysterious store fronts in Hongdae, and to provide information for those interested in visiting a Korean fortune teller.
Fortune Telling In Korea
Fortune telling in Korea doesn’t have the same ‘hippy oddball’ stigma attached to it as it does in the West. Though Koreans do not necessarily accept the readings that they receive as fact, they often like to obtain them to gain an additional perspective on both their future and current situations.
Korea is unfortunately still a country where mental illnesses go largely unrecognized and a dismissive approach is taken towards concerns of mental health. Visiting a psychiatrist is a big taboo here, so many Koreans like to visit fortune tellers, particularly saju readers in order to talk through their current situation with an impartial person.
During Seollal (Lunar New Year), many Koreans will visit a fortune teller to receive their prediction for the year ahead. Other popular times to go are during turning points in a person’s life (I’ve just graduated – should I study more or go on to work?) and when considering marriage. It is not uncommon for a Korean’s parents to insist that they visit a fortune teller with their partners to determine their compatibility before entering a big commitment.
Types of Korean Fortune Telling
There are numerous types of Korean fortune telling services available. Some are very similar to those which you can find in the west, whereas others are unique to this region.
Saju – Based on the four main components of your birth (date, year, time and place), this practice stems from ancient China and holds the belief that your destiny is not changeable, and is determined by the conditions surrounding your birth.
Face Reading – This practice is slightly less common and more difficult to find, though there are a number of face readers in both Hongdae, and the upscale Apgujeong district. Face readers will analyze a person’s face, much like a palmist reading a hand, and reveal the person’s fortune. The interesting thing about face reading is that Koreans believe that cosmetic surgery can change your fortune – so perhaps you hate your nose but it actually means that you are approachable, whereas a new nose could make people intimidated by you!
Palm Reading – Palm readers believe that the lines and detailing on your hands depict your life and will predict your future from the markings.
Tarot Cards – This is the same practice as in the west. If you are not familiar, during a tarot card reading you can either ask a specific question, or request for your general fortune to be told before drawing cards from an ancient deck. The cards reflect a number of aspects of your current and future situation – how you feel, the current problem, and the future.
Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller: How To Find A Teller in Seoul
As mentioned, there are many fortune tellers surrounding Seoul’s Hongdae region – just take the subway to Hongik University station and leave at exit 8. Many of the readers do not speak English however, so unless you are somewhat fluent in Korean, take a Korean friend with you to help translate or find one with a sign on the door confirming that they speak English.
Apgujeong and Cheongdam-dong are also popular Seoul neighborhoods for fortune tellers, though you can pretty much find them all over the city.
Are you interested in visiting a Korean fortune teller? Have you ever had your fortune told? Share your story below! 🙂